Hayley Simmons

Answering your retail marketing questions

Marketing is an area many businesses struggle with. We asked retailers to send consultant Hayley Simmons their most vexing questions for her advice on what they should and shouldn’t be doing to market their business.

Q: How do I make regular posts on social media more interesting?

A: Before-and-after posts are great, but often showrooms don’t have the volume to rely solely on them for content. Rather than focus on the whole project, think about all the decisions that you and the customer had to make during the design process and focus on educating future customers. Post about each key decision and get plenty of close-up shots of different features. This will highlight your expertise and personalised service. You can also post your work in progress. How about an image or quick video of you putting a mood board together? Or show one of your team working in CAD? Showing the people behind the business and the process is difficult for bigger retailers – this is where you can get the edge. And learn how to use a design tool like Canva to produce graphics, so you’re not relying solely on finished photography.

Q: Is a marketing strategy a ‘one size fits all’ or is it a geographical approach?

A: Remember we’re not only trying to reach the right people, we’re also trying to reach them with a compelling message – why they should buy from you. You can use search engines, print and social media, but how much weight you give each one could be different and what you say should definitely be different. Showroom location can impact how much you need to spend. A high-footfall location, for example, may need less investment.

Q: Drip-feeding throughout the year is one tactic, but short bursts is another. Which one is best?

A: Doing both at the same time is the best way if you can. Larger retailers often do brand marketing all year round, with short bursts for offers, new launches, seasonal events, etc. With marketing, you are playing the long game as well as the short one.

Q: We don’t normally market or advertise ourselves, everything is generated from word of mouth. We get good footfall without spending any extra and would be reluctant to add another cost to our bottom line. What are your thoughts?

A: It’s great that you’ve built enough of a reputation to sustain your sales. If you’re happy with your level of turnover and it’s not declining then I don’t have a strong opinion on your approach. However, if you want to grow the business or if sales are declining even gradually, then it means there are fewer customers to talk about you to future clients, which will lead to a downward spiral. This feels a little risky. If you are going to invest in marketing the business, it has to be with the goal of growing the top line to grow the bottom line. Initially, it will be a cost, but ultimately it should pay back and a lot more. How much you need to spend, sadly, is often down to how much you can do yourselves and how much you need to outsource. I would get some advice and quotes about your specific business and location and start with a level that feels comfortable and progress from there.

Q: I find that social media advertising only attracts low-budget customers. How can I change that?

A: Target the right locations and exclude the wrong ones. Experiment with targeting specific interests that align with your ideal customer. Also, how you talk about your brand can make a difference. I measure the success of paid social media ads by how many people they reach for the cost and how many click-throughs they get. I also look at organic traffic and searches in Google for the brand name. I don’t attribute leads directly to social media vs Google or other activity because we can’t measure it properly and the KBB purchase journey is so long that a social media advert could prompt a Google search or showroom visit months down the line.

Q: Should we be advertising on Instagram and Google and do lots of followers translate into leads and orders?

A: It’s important not to focus too much on the distinction between digital and ‘traditional’ marketing methods. It’s wise to do both if you can. If you test something new, you need to measure it in the right way. For customers actively searching for a showroom, Google is best. Over 90% of searches are via Google. You want to see people from Google ads calling, messaging and filling out contact forms. Social media plays a different role. People visit and browse, but don’t always follow you – and followers don’t necessarily become customers. Organic posts can help people progress from being aware about you to taking the next step. Paid social media ads are a cost-effective way to reach new people in your area and build targeted awareness
of your business for when they’re ready to buy. Print ads are great if you focus your budget on relevant publications. Advertising works best if you can split your budget across a few different media types.

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